Activist Naomi Klein talks global climate justice imperative

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

When Naomi Klein looks at the world today, she sees flames. There are three “fires” that the global community is facing, she told an audience at Richardson Auditorium on Tuesday, and they are increasingly converging.

Klein gave introductory remarks before speaking with Assistant Professor of African American Studies Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor about Klein’s new book, “On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal.” She is a Canadian journalist and activist widely known for her biting indictments of capitalism and globalization.

The first “fire” that Klein identified is the central concern of her book: climate change.

She cited the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2018 report, which laid out both a plan and a deadline for global leaders to stave off climate chaos. The plan, Klein said, was an “‘unprecedented transformation in virtually every aspect of society,’ in energy, in agriculture, in transportation, in building construction.” The deadline was twelve years, now down to eleven — what Klein described as a “very, very, very short window.”

“Any of us who focus even tangentially on what we’re hearing from climate scientists knows that what we do or don’t do in the next handful of years will determine the lives and fates of hundreds of millions of people,” Klein said.

The second “fire,” Klein said, is a political one.

She pointed to the ascendancy of populist leaders in the U.S., Brazil, the Philippines, India, Australia, and Russia. In each of these countries, Klein said, politicians are defining national in-groups against a “sharply defined out-group, inside the respective countries and outside, on the borders … the illegal, the illegitimate, the frightening other.”

And these two fires — the “political and the planetary” — are linked, Klein added.

“I think they are feeding each other,” she told the audience. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that at the very moment when the reality of climate breakdown ceases to be some future, abstract threat off in the indeterminate distance and becomes a lived reality, that at this very moment we have the global phenomenon of the rise of these strongmen figures, riling up hatred, turning populations against each other, using this fear and sense of scarcity.”

Politicians like President Donald Trump and President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro are facilitating rather than fighting climate change, Klein said, from relaxed environmental regulation in the United States to wildfires rippling across the Amazon. Meanwhile, climate events are having the most devastating impact in other countries, those without the infrastructure and resources to adequately deal with them.

Klein argued that this imbalance has “created the cruel irony that the very people who are forced to move first are the people who did the least to create this crisis.”

“They deserve not just asylum but an apology,” she added.

Rather than asylum and apologies, however, Klein claimed that powerful countries are responding to climate change with a model of economic development that profits off of climate refugees. She traced the origin of this model from the “Island Solution” in Australia to criminalization of migrants in the E.U. to the treatment of immigrants at the U.S. border.

The result, Klein asserted, is “climate barbarism,” a me-first response to climate change that entails cutting down on foreign aid and funneling money into the containment of climate refugees.

But there is an important alternative, she argued, to the policies of climate barbarism, and it lies in the “third fire”: the global climate justice movement.

This fire is being stoked by Greta Thunberg and the Sunrise Movement, and it is proliferating, Klein stated, gaining followers in an exponential and unprecedented fashion. In September, over seven million people took to the streets in worldwide climate strikes.

“There is incredible urgency in the fires that have been lit in this coming generation, and they’re trying to light fires in the generation that came before them,” Klein said.

Klein also emphasized that the global climate movement needs to be intersectional in order to match the demands of “intersecting crises” in political, economic, and social realms. In this sense, the radical scope of these crises presents an opportunity for a radical re-envisioning of society’s most basic yet problematic structures — a central argument in her book.

“It’s going to take an all-out war on pollution and poverty and racism and colonialism and despair, all at the same time,” Klein read from the introduction to her book.

In conversation with Klein, Assistant Professor Taylor asked what factors have contributed to the sudden, rapid visibility of the climate movement, particularly in the United States. Klein said that the lived experience of climate change — hotter, longer summers; wildfires in California — are helping to bring urgency to the movement, along with publicized scientific reports and collective action.

Klein and Taylor also discussed the role that climate policies are playing in the 2020 election. Klein critiqued Senator Elizabeth Warren’s recent interpretation of climate change as an issue of political corruption, emphasizing instead that it is inextricably linked to capitalism. She also said that Senator Bernie Sanders’ “Green New Deal” proposal is the most internationally focused.

But across the slate of Democratic candidates, the unprecedented attention given to climate policy indicates an “absolute sea change” in the way we are approaching the climate crisis, Klein emphasized.

“Just a few months ago we were talking about whether we can get Republicans on board for a revenue neutral carbon tax,” she said. “This really is a shift.” MORE

Top tech CEOs warn Canada’s ‘future economic prosperity is at risk’ in letter to federal leaders

Leader of companies employing 35,000 Canadians urge parties to foster innovation

Image result for innovation

The CEOs of more than a hundred Canadian technology companies have penned an open letter to the four major federal party leaders, asking them to step up to the plate when it comes to fostering Canadian innovation.

The letter, addressed to Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Green Leader Elizabeth May, says the parties need to develop economic policies that allow the Canadian tech sector to more easily access talent, growth capital and new customers.

“We’re writing because Canada’s productivity is lagging and our future economic prosperity is at risk,” the letter reads. “We want to work with all parties in this election to address this challenge.”

“If you look at what’s currently occurring on the political platforms, there isn’t much talk about innovation or wealth creation as being a key (topic) of this economic discussion, about Canada and its future,” said Benjamin Bergen, executive director of the Council of Canadian Innovators, which organized the letter.

The CEOs add that their companies employed more than 35,000 Canadians last year, exported to 190 countries and generated over $6 billion for the Canadian economy.

CEO hopes parties commit to Global Skills Strategy

John Sicard, CEO of Kinaxis, is one of 110 CEOs who signed an open letter to the four major federal party leaders asking them to create a plan to foster Canadian innovators. (Courtesy of Kinaxis)

John Sicard is the CEO of Kinaxis, an Ottawa-based company that helps improve supply chain efficiency for clients such as Toyota, Honda and Merck and employs 700 people. Sicard said business is good, but growth is challenging because top qualified graduates are siphoned off by U.S. tech giants.

About one in four science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) students leave for the U.S. technology sector, according to a recent study from the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs. MORE

Ontario Federation of Labour endorses NDP and Jagmeet Singh

Ontarians have learned first-hand just how much social and economic damage a Conservative government can do: OFL

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh waves from his campaign airplane after a campaign stop, in Miramichi, N.B. – Andrew Vaughan , The Canadian Press

The Ontario Federation of Labour is proud to endorse Jagmeet Singh and the NDP, the only party in it for you, for working Canadians, and not for corporate CEOs and the ultra-rich.

The NDP has always been the only party that consistently listens and best represents the needs of working people across this country. It is New Democrats, led by Jagmeet Singh, who would govern for the many.

On Oct. 21, Ontarians have an opportunity to set Canada’s government on a path that will ensure an economy that works for everyone, that will tackle the climate crisis by regulating Canada’s largest industrial polluters, provide head-to-toe health care: pharma care, mental health care, and dental care for all, and tackle wealth inequality by applying a 1 per cent tax on fortunes over $20 million, raising billions for public services.

It is time to elect a government that puts equity and inclusion at the forefront.

Working people know how hard it is for families to make ends meet. Canada’s next government must ensure decent laws to stop the growth of precarious jobs that leave working people struggling to meet basic needs. The NDP has made a commitment to a $15 federal minimum wage and a living wage within their first mandate. The Canada-wide reality is that there are twice as many people working for minimum wage now as there were 20 years ago.

In the last 18 months, Ontarians have learned first-hand just how much social and economic damage a Conservative government can do.

Premier Doug Ford is well on his way to tearing apart the social safety net in the province. He is sacrificing the environment for profit. One of the first things the Conservatives did was to cancel the cap-and trade program. Then, they froze the minimum wage at $14 an hour. Cuts to public services just keep on coming: cuts to health care, cuts to program funding for kids with autism, cuts to education.

Many students have been left unable to graduate on schedule because their schools don’t have funds to deliver the courses they need. Many students, unable to pay tuition due to government cuts to post-secondary funding, have been forced to withdraw from university and college.

Andrew Scheer will govern Canada with the same philosophy as Doug Ford, and poses a threat to human rights as well — he has refused to retract his own homophobic comments, and has stood by candidates who hold right-wing extremist views.

The Liberal Party has also failed working people. As photos of the prime minister have shown, the Liberals do not always practice what they preach. They campaign left but govern right. The Liberals also lied about electoral reform, pushed Canada’s first Indigenous Attorney General out of Cabinet and their party, and made it clear they believe in one set of laws for corporations like SNC Lavalin but another for the rest of us. SOURCE


A Brief History of Canada’s Failure to Fund Indigenous Kids Equitably

Instead, we’ve spent millions of dollars to avoid doing it.

Cindy Blackstock
The Trudeau government has challenged a decision ordering Canada to compensate Indigenous people hurt by the on-reserve child welfare system, to the tune of $2 billion. Advocate Cindy Blackstock has said such a challenge would represent ‘racial discrimination of the worst kind.’ Photo by Jeff McIntosh, the Canadian Press.

[Editor’s note: In light of the news that the Trudeau government is challenging a “landmark ruling” that orders Canada to compensate Indigenous children and families hurt by the on-reserve child welfare system, we publish a recent essay by Tyee reporter Katie Hyslop that explores the federal government’s history of chronic avoidance when it comes to funding Indigenous kids equitably. The essay, titled: “Why fund Indigenous child welfare equitably, when you can spend millions to delay instead?” recently appeared in our free Tyee newsletter, The Run. You can subscribe to The Run here.]

Two-thirds of the kids in British Columbia government care are Indigenous; nationally it’s over 50 per cent. Most are First Nations. Yet only about 10 per cent of children in Canada and B.C. are Indigenous. They’re vastly over-represented in care. And that’s partly because the federal government continues to uphold a racist child welfare system.

Let’s look at the tape.

In 2005, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society released a report on federal funding for status First Nations kids showing their medical and child welfare services received 30 per cent less funding per child than services for non-Indigenous children.

That same year, the society’s executive director Cindy Blackstock began lobbying the federal government to adopt Jordan’s Principle. Jordan River Anderson was born with multiple disabilities; disputes between the federal and provincial governments over who would pay for his treatment delayed his care for three years. Blackstock wanted governments to pledge to pay for care, and sort out the bills later.

She got her wish in 2007. Kids would come first next time.

Except they didn’t.

That same year Blackstock, along with the Assembly of First Nations, launched a new campaign. She filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission arguing the government had been discriminating against First Nations children by underfunding services. The next year, the commission sent the complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

Years of legal battles ensued. Stephen Harper’s federal government pulled out all the stops to get the case thrown out and — when that didn’t work — delay it. It also spied on and “retaliated” against Blackstock.

Eight years later, on Jan. 26, 2016, the tribunal ruled that the federal government knowingly underfunded child welfare and medical services for 165,000 First Nations kids living on reserves and in the Yukon.

The government knew it wasn’t spending enough to meet provincial/territorial standards for care. But it still didn’t provide enough money.

It was ordered to cease its discriminatory practices immediately, as well as reform and broaden the scope of its child welfare services and supports. Compensation for the discrimination was to be decided at a later date.

But the rights tribunal ruling didn’t bring change. The tribunal has issued eight non-compliance orders, to little effect.

While the government was unwilling to equitably fund services for Indigenous children, it was prepared to spend to deny them services. For example, from 2015 to 2018 the feds spent $100,000 in legal fees to avoid paying $6,000 for one First Nations child’s braces. The government eventually settled with the family.

This isn’t just about medical expenses. The main reason kids are in care is neglect. Child welfare researchers say this is another word for poverty, which is only exacerbated by underfunded services.

The government’s discrimination against Indigenous children, established by the action launched 12 years ago, comes with a price. Canada must pay every on-reserve First Nations child who was removed from their families (since 2006) for reasons other than abuse $40,000. The guardians who they were taken from receive $20,000 per child apprehended.

Status kids on or off reserve who were denied or delayed in receiving necessary medical services from 2007 (when the government adopted Jordan’s principle) to 2017 also receive $40,000. Their guardians get $20,000.

The Assembly of First Nations says the child apprehensions payments alone apply to about 54,000 people and will cost more than $2 billion.

Still waiting on Trudeau

An Indigenous community leader in Montreal on the heartfelt appeal that Justin Trudeau has never answered

Image result for ricochet: Still waiting on Trudeau

I remember watching the news early one morning as I was preparing to head to work. It was September 2017, and Justin Trudeau was at the United Nations. He was speaking at length about his government’s relationship with Indigenous people.

He talked about the mistakes of the past, about “the legacy of colonialism” and “the paternalistic Indian Act.” He made some strong statements, such as “No relationship is more important to this government than that with Indigenous people.” These were not mere words, he said, actions would follow. “We are ready to invest in [Indigenous communities], you just need to tell us how you need it, where you are going to spend it and how we can best help.” He suggested that change was well underway, and that Indigenous people could expect a “true future in partnership.”

His presentation left me feeling used and nauseated. My people’s struggles had become a platform for his cause at the UN.

I feel honoured to have worked for the Indigenous population for over 20 years, creating programs aimed at strengthening and empowering people. I had struggled in my youth, but found a way to navigate the system. Now I try to clear a path for those who are also struggling. So where do Justin’s declarations fit in?

My family, and many others, have suffered generations of colonialism. But in April 2018, I finally decided to write to Trudeau.

A (non-Indigenous) friend of mine approached me after seeing the prime minister’s speech at the UN. She believed if I wrote him, requesting support for a transitional housing project, run through the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal where I am the director, that would help urban Indigenous people get off the street, that he would help. I had little confidence. But my friend was adamant and spent considerable time trying to convince me.

It took many months for me to consider reaching out to the prime minister. My birth mother was forced to attend a Residential School and, consequently, I was part of the Sixties Scoop. My family, and many others, have suffered generations of colonialism. But in April 2018, I finally decided to write to Trudeau. I recruited a friend of mine, a professional writer, to help. I needed the letter of request to be strong, engaging and powerful. The final version was a thing of beauty. (Editors’ note: We have included, below, the full 2018 letter to Justin Trudeau.)

The next step was to hold a press conference, on the day the letter was delivered. I was lucky to have many media outlets arrive and cover the story. For good measure, I also sent it to Carolyn Bennett, the Indigenous Affairs minister, and Jody Wilson-Raybould, the former justice minister. I thought I had all angles covered.

There was much excitement from others, who truly believed that the letter would be answered positively.

And so I waited for a response. Any response. I still haven’t received any kind of reply. Not even a smoke signal. Silence times three….

It has been said that Justin Trudeau has the “Indigenous vote.” Prior to his election, he promised an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women. I believe many Indigenous people voted for him because of it. The request for an inquiry has been ongoing since the Native Women’s Association of Canada began in 2010 to publish research showing the alarming statistics of MMIW with the Sisters in Spirit awareness campaign. Amnesty International followed suit with a report in 2013. The inquiry had been a long time coming. We waited to see if and when Trudeau would apply the 231 Calls to Justice, as outlined in the MMIW final report. Still waiting. MORE

Canada’s fossil fuel subsidies amount to $1,650 per Canadian. It’s got to stop.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s vow to phase out ‘inefficient’ subsidies for coal, oil and gas still hasn’t happened — despite the escalating costs of the climate emergency

Alberta's oilsands North of Fort McMurray.

According to a new International Monetary Fund (IMF) report, Canada subsidized the fossil fuel industry to the tune of almost $60 billion in 2015 — approximately $1,650 per Canadian.

Yet subsidizing one of the world’s wealthiest industries is folly.

Such subsidies not only hurt Canadian taxpayers and the economy — they also exacerbate the climate emergency.

Indeed, the G20 countries have already agreed that subsidizing fossil fuels is irrational in a warming world — and have called for action to eliminate inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that distort markets.

The problem is that subsidies encourage the production and wasteful consumption of fossil fuels all while impeding the shift to cleaner renewables.

For these reasons, during the last election campaign Justin Trudeau sensibly committed to “phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.”

The problem is that government has not yet delivered on this promise.

A new 2019 report by Canada’s Auditor General reveals government’s review of such subsidies is “incomplete and not rigorous,” is “not based on all relevant and reliable information” and “did not consider economic, social and environmental sustainability over the long term.”

Canada continues to subsidize the fossil fuel industry in myriad ways. First, it provides tax breaks under the federal Income Tax Act. For example, in 2015 the federal government introduced a new accelerated depreciation rate for equipment used in LNG facilities, which was a change proposed by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

Encana gas wellA natural gas well pad with numerous wells for fracking near Farmington, B.C. The LNG industry in British Columbia is the recipient of numerous tax breaks and exemptions. Photo: Garth Lenz / The Narwhal

Second, government provides funding to the fossil fuel industry at favourable rates through direct financing and loan guarantees. A recent example is Export Development Canada’s administration of a nearly $5 billion loan to support the government’s controversial purchase and operation of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Ottawa has no plan to recoup that principal cost from industry — and is also subsidizing half the interest expense with taxpayer dollars.

Third, Canada provides direct funding to the fossil fuel industry through research, development and other services provided by federal agencies.

For example, the federal government is paying $1.5 billion for the Oceans Protection Plan, an initiative to safeguard bitumen transport through the Port of Vancouver. This plan was necessitated by new oil tanker traffic — and should be paid for by oil shippers.

Justin Trudeau Trans Mountain Oceans Protection PlanPrime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Victoria in April of 2018 to reiterate the federal government’s support for the Trans Mountain pipeline and commitment to the Oceans Protection Plan. Photo: Carol Linnitt / The Narwhal

Finally, there is the $60 billion subsidy that the IMF focused on — the “social costs” of carbon that governments pay, instead of fuel producers.

Lacking adequate carbon taxes, governments continue to pick up the tab for the impacts of climate change — for example, repairing damage from extreme weather events, building new levees, sea walls and storm sewers and paying for wildfire control and increased health costs.  MORE


United Nations puts spotlight on climate action in Canadian cities

Lisa Helps, Mayor of Victoria, B.C., speaks to the United Nations on Sept. 21, 2019 about nature-based solutions in urban areas. Photo by Fatima Syed

Could a governor of Papua New Guinea and the mayor of Victoria save the oldest, largest tropical forests in the southwestern Pacific from climate change?

It sounds unlikely but that’s the very serious conversation Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps found herself having on Sept. 21, at a dinner in New York with a Papua New Guinea governor and Nelson, B.C.’s Councillor Rik Logtenberg.

If the forest collapses in the climate crisis, the people of Papua New Guinea will not be able to survive, the governor told Helps, before making a direct plea for the help of western cities like Victoria and Nelson.

The dinner occurred hours after Helps pledged Victoria as the first Canadian city to participate in the United Nations Trees in Cities Initiative, which challenged mayors of cities around the world to boost their urban forests as a means to lower carbon pollution.

Standing with the mayors of Triana, Albania; Bonn, Germany; and Helsingbord, Sweden, Helps vowed to plant 5,000 trees.

It’s not a very ambitious goal, Helps admitted in an interview with National Observer in New York. “But the actual footprint of the city of Victoria is tiny — it’s just 20 square kilometers. So 5,000 is a good start,” she said. “My hope is that our residents will rally and will be able to plant 10,000 trees in one year.”

“Ten years ago, we didn’t think cities had the capacity and the ability to solve climate change. This is, I think, a new thing.” – Victoria Mayor @lisahelps

Helps doesn’t know how the city of Victoria and its more than 85,000 residents caught the attention of the United Nations.

But her pledge illustrated the marked shift at the United Nations Climate Summit this year that saw climate leadership represented mostly at the local and sub-national level. Cities, towns and regions around the world took the stage to discuss nature-based solutions and local climate financing efforts, while their federal and national counterparts came later for the UN General Assembly.

According to UN Habitat, cities consume 78 per cent of the world’s energy and produce more than 60 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. By 2050, cities will be home to two-thirds of the world’s population.

So, while Canada’s federal leaders took to the election campaign trail at home, mayors such as Helps, Valérie Plante of Montreal, Berry Vrbanovic of Kitchener, Ont. and Naheed Nenshi of Calgary took to the UN to listen, learn and promote best sustainable practices and nature-based solutions in cities.

Provincial environment ministers from British Columbia and Quebec were also present at the summit to boost their carbon-pricing plans — one of the four key focuses of the United Nations this year.

“One of the key shifts is that cities are now seen as key actors,” Helps said in an interview. “Ten years ago, we didn’t think cities had the capacity and the ability to solve climate change, This is, I think, a new thing. And it’s hopefully not only going to shift the dialogue at the summit, but also shift the kinds of actions that happen coming out of it.”

Lisa Helps – Victoria Mayor@lisahelps

Honoured to present at the UN Climate Summit on a panel Local Leadership for Climate: Solutions to the Climate Emergency.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter
‘A reality check’

Helps was only invited a week before the Sept. 21 Climate Summit in a letter that touted the City of Victoria’s efforts in improving the management of trees on public and private lands through an annual $1-million investment in an Urban Forest Master Plan.

In 2019, the City of Victoria allocated nearly $3 million to maintain and enhance the city’s urban forest.

“I believe there is a lot we can learn from the progress your city has already achieved in this area, and I would like to help you share this achievement with other cities and allow them to learn from it,” Under-Secretary-General Olga Algayerova wrote in the invitation. MORE

Class action lawsuit filed against e-cigarette giant Juul

Class action lawsuit filed against e-cigarette giant Juul

A notice of civil claim has been filed in the BC Supreme Court, seeking a class action lawsuit against vaping giant Juul.

According to the court documents, Owen Mann-Campbell and Jaycen Stephens claim they began using Juul e-cigarettes in 2018 and “subsequently experienced adverse health conditions as a result of vaping, including pulmonary disease.”

Juul is a leading e-cigarette brand that says its mission is to “provide a satisfying alternative for adult smokers.”

The device is battery operated and works by heating a pod filled a “salt-based nicotine e-liquid formula” which creates an aerosol or vapour.

The notice of civil claim states that last year, Mann-Campbell and Stephens began using Juul e-cigarettes when they were 18-years-old.

“Immediately” after using the product, they said they experienced shortness of breath, chronic bronchitis, chest pain, coughing, pneumonia, increased addiction to nicotine, and anxiety.

In 2019, Mann-Campbell and Stephens were advised by their family doctors that their symptoms were likely connected to vaping and they were told to stop using e-cigarettes.

Both plaintiffs say they “would not have purchased and/or used Juul e-cigarettes had [they] been provided with accurate information and/or warnings with respect to the possible health complications from vaping.”

They claim they were “misled” by Juul with respect to the “safety and efficacy” of their products and advertising claiming the e-cigarette is a healthier alternative to smoking.

None of the allegations have been proven in court but Juul has recently become the centre of controversy in the US and Canada.

Last week, the company’s CEO Kevin Burns announced he was stepping down in the midst of a vaping-related health crisis in the US. Juul also said it would discontinue its US-based Facebook and Instagram accounts in order to “remove inappropriate social media content generated by others on those platforms.”

According to the US Centres for Disease Control (CDC), there have been 805 lung injury cases reported in the country and 12 deaths have been confirmed in 10 states.

“The latest findings from the investigation into lung injuries associated with e-cigarette use, or vaping suggest products containing THC play a role in the outbreak,” said the CDC. MORE


B.C. men allege pulmonary disease in lawsuit against e-cigarette brand Juul
Major vaping product company facing lawsuit in Canada